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skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com

Tuesday, 27 May
Some Of The Rest Of The Story

Well, even after a few different postings on the subject, I still have a bit more to yammer on about Belgium. So fuck it; I will. Here then is just some of the bits of the honeymoon that I didn't manage to fit anywhere else.

The Immobile Elderly Woman

On our walks to and from our hotel, we passed along a couple residential streets every day, and with startling frequency, we would encounter the Immobile Elderly Woman. She had lost a leg somewhere along the way, so she sat in a wheelchair, right in her doorway, apparently--it seemed--for hours. It was like someone had parked her there, because I seriously doubt she had the motor skills to whip that chair around. At first we smiled politely as we passed, but then she started speaking to us. "Mlab," she'd say, craning her head around. We tried to respond, first with "Bonjour!"--most Bruggeans know French, and our Dutch is ghoulish. We got nothing. We passed her the next day. "Blem." So we tried our butcherous Dutch. "Goedemorgen!" we chirped. "Lahr." She turned her head away from us; whether out of disgust or incomprehension or simple motor dysfunction I can't say. Naturally, I immediately assumed failure on our part. "Our Dutch chews," I said, "We probably just told her that her cat was Jewish."

Finally one day, we did see the parker: a young woman with a little child were getting her arranged in her doorway and chittering at her companionably. Then the young woman rushed away with the kid, calling out goodbyes to the other woman, who called back to her, "Ylaaa." So: monosyllabic granny who just likes to sit in the sun during the day, and presumably is pretty used to people not knowing what the fuck she's saying. So that was all right. Beats a nursing home.


The wife and I ate like fucking royalty on our trip, I must say: we made Falstaff seem like a starving ape casting around his denuded rainforest for a goddam wood grub. Belgians, it should be known, quietly eat some of the best food on the planet while France gets all the big ink and then whams you with monstrous bills to boot. But a couple of our favorite experiences were at relatively smallish, modest places anyway. One of those, "Den Wittenkop," looks like it's been kicking around since the canals silted up, and features the best waiter in the world. When we first went in, he presented us with our menus, and then when returning to take our orders, he noticed that he had neglected to also give us a wine list. His attitude immediately became mournful. "I am . . . so sorry." he said funereally, as if this lapse in server etiquette was the equivalent of vomiting in our laps. On another visit, I asked for an after-dinner scotch, and his eyes gleamed with the unholy light of one who recognizes another single-malt fiend. "The fifteen year is better than this eighteen year. I know, it makes no sense!" he cackled, and no fool I, I ordered the fifteen year. He came back with both, so I could see what he was talking about, and of course he was right. That evening, we produced the inevitable camera, and he bustled over saying, "Yes, I will take your picture!" I brought him up short saying, "Actually, this is one of our favorite restaurants here; I'd like to take your picture." He puzzled this a moment, as if I had suddenly lapsed into Tagalog. "What do I do then?" And then he struck a freakish heroic pose; at well over six feet tall, he looked like some heraldic jumping spider. We settled for a normal shot of him with the wife, but in retrospect, I shoulda got the first one when I had the chance.

Another place we loved, "De Bottelier," was run by a placid man who rather reminded me of Christopher Walken, but with all of the frightening weirdness excised. He often allowed a traveling group of buskers in to his place, where they performed bits and pieces of song classics along with their fiddle, guitar and stand-up bass while people ate and then tossed them euros after. Pretty nice . . . unless you were a dog. People in Belgium think nothing of taking their dogs pretty much fucking everywhere with them, a policy I endorse with vigorous nodding: I love dogs. However, on this night, there was obviously some tonal dog-torture emanating from one of the instruments--my guess is the fiddle--and right as they started up playing "Yesterday," the dog lost it. "YICK! YICK! YICK!" it screamed, startling the hell out of me: I had no idea there was a dog in the place, but sure enough, looking over to the next table, I could see the crazed little beast, barking with bloodlust, looking like a tiny, angry, fanged pile of rags. The buskers didn't give a fuck, and kept playing, so the owners of the dog whipped right out of there--but making sure to quickly tip the buskers first.


Meaning "terrace," the Terrastje is a tiny bar right across the canal from our hotel; we spent many evenings hanging out there, having a couple beers and playing Yahtzee with dice and paper. It's run by this fantastically crusty older couple, who, when the mood strikes them, will suddenly throw on ancient French tunes and croak along with the lyrics. The wife is particularly singular; she will often simply make up sudden, seemingly random house rules according to her whims. One night we ordered food; she laid down menus in front of us and said, "I don't know. You point, and I say yes or no." We cautiously pointed to macaroni and cheese, which was apparently a legal option; we were fed and fed well. One night the wife ordered a martini--by the way, a very different thing than what Americans or Brits are thinking of--and she said, "Martini? I make it, but I think you're crazy." Noted. Perhaps best of all, one night I ordered a beer and a whisky chaser. She nodded, poured the beer, then looked behind her at her liquor bottles. She looked back at me. "Beer, but no whisky," she said firmly. "No whisky?" I asked, staring at the bar. The inebriated guy beside me heard this too. He turned around. "No whisky?" he echoed uncertainly, as if he had heard of an impending comet strike. She ignored him and gave me my beer and no whisky.

Our second to last night there, we walked into Terrastje, and . . . what the holy fuck? The music was blasting at a mind-shattering volume; weirder, it was Ricky Martin, and the wife-owner was grooving behind the bar. Some locals were also up on their feet, dancing like mad, while others observed with amusement from the sidelines. It was like turning on the TV expecting BJ and the Bear and getting The G.G. Allin Batfuck Variety Hour. We goggled for a bit and then settled in to a table. We chatted and laughed with a nice British couple next to us on holiday with his tiny, aged French mother. (We initially took her for a tiny, aged man, because of her thinning white hair; in truth, she looked exactly like that terrible old crazy fucker from Poltergeist, but without, you know, the unspeakable evil.)

This of course did not last; soon we were all dragged into the mad dancing, even at one point the tiny French woman--Edith Piaf got her out of her chair. We danced for a while, nuttily, and then someone twigged to the fact that we were newlyweds. Frank Sinatra was played while we danced our very own dance, and the British fellow snagged my camera and took some shots of us. It was all very sweet, and very romantic, and very embarrassing, and in a fairer world, it would have lasted much longer . . . but that's what keeps one coming back, I suppose; the perfect waiter or a silly dog in a restaurant can keep you coming back. Even if it's only to park yourself in a doorway in the sun and watch the world pass.

Roam | Skot | 27 May, 2003 |

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


This all sounds so typically Belgian =) I've been there a few times, having lived (born/raised/etc) in Holland, and the people in Belgian always seem happy and weird =)

And "Your cat is Jewish" would be "Uw kat is Joods", in case you ever DO intend to say it in a Dutch-speaking country.
But I think most cats are Buddhist, even in Belgium =P

Comment number: 000870   Posted by: Eva on May 27, 2003 09:37 PM from IP:

I've never been to Belgiush. If I went there, I'd not say a word to anyone. I'd cower under a table-cloth if a lady told me I could have beer and no whisky. I would think I'd broken some rule.

On our honeymoon in Salem, Massachussetts, I remember talking to a guy who ran a store/haunted house. Everything there is a something/haunted house. He had to keep screaming into his little walky talky that the ghosts and ghouls in the back should stop chattering and get ready to scare us. Then he sent us in. I think that's the only person we talked to.

Comment number: 000871   Posted by: i on May 28, 2003 06:25 AM from IP:


It's so touching!

Comment number: 000872   Posted by: Dave Adams on May 28, 2003 06:41 AM from IP:

And of course you'll be posting all of those pictures soon I take it...

Comment number: 000873   Posted by: Marshall on May 28, 2003 07:03 AM from IP:

Sounds like a wonderful honeymoon. Being a Single-Malt Fiend myself, I have only one question: What brand was it?

Comment number: 000874   Posted by: KOTWF on May 28, 2003 08:14 AM from IP:

Damn, I love countries that let dogs go in stores and restaurants. As much as we supposedly love our dogs here, why do we keep them out of our favorite places?

Comment number: 000875   Posted by: Bet on May 28, 2003 09:11 AM from IP:

It was Glenfiddich. The 15 year was casked in old sherry barrels, whereas the 18 year was casked in new American oak. The difference was, unsurprisingly, profound.

Comment number: 000876   Posted by: on May 28, 2003 09:37 AM from IP:

I highly recommend the Glenmorangie Port Wood finish. It's just like the regular Glenmorangie, but casked in old port barrels. Very similar to your Glenfiddich experience.

Or you could just go with Talisker, my personal favorite. Very smokey, but suprisingly smooth.


Comment number: 000877   Posted by: KOTWF on May 28, 2003 11:41 AM from IP:

"playing Yahtzee with dice and paper" - what other way IS there to play Yahtzee?

Comment number: 000878   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on May 28, 2003 12:11 PM from IP:

I highly recommend the Glenmorangie Port Wood finish.

Probably my personal favorite. They also have sherry and madeira finishes, you are probably aware. Balvenie Doublewood is likewise delicious.

Comment number: 000879   Posted by: on May 28, 2003 12:16 PM from IP:

Madeira finish? I was not aware. I think that will be next on my list of things to try. Speaking of things to try, what is the difference between an American and a Belgian martini?

Comment number: 000880   Posted by: KOTWF on May 28, 2003 12:29 PM from IP:

apropos the Important Geniuses you started with - tho you are but mortal in the bonce department like the rest of us, you can do something that Feynmann can do sometimes and Newton for all his glory not ever - you can make me laugh. long and regularly.


Comment number: 000883   Posted by: David Tiley on May 29, 2003 05:44 AM from IP:

A waiter? APPOLOGIZING TO YOU? well. you certainly WERE NOT IN FRANCE. i lovelove love france, but the waiters could take a clue.
also. edith piaf, if ONLY she WERE alive. however, i have seen her grave and alas, she is not.

Comment number: 000897   Posted by: brodie on May 30, 2003 09:02 AM from IP:

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